Tag Archives: love advice

FOR SINGLES: Is Marriage Becoming Extinct?

The shape of our families is constantly changing. People are marrying for the first time, and the divorce rate just keeps soaring, giving way to many single parent households. Single life is no longer a short rite of passage; it’s an important consumer demographic. For the first time in history (since the immigration of mostly male, early settlers), almost half of adult Americans are now unmarried. There’s even Singular Magazine, devoted to the lifestyles of those who have made a commitment to being single. It even includes ads for commitment rings to purchase for oneself.

But has love changed? Has committed love been replaced by a revolving door of dates? Is long-term monogamy even necessary for our species’ survival? The answers are complicated. Marriage may be changing, but it will never go out of style.  In case you’ve been living under a rock, there’s a fight going on right now in America to allow more people to be granted marital rights.

Marriage may not be going away, but its purpose has shifted. Historically, marriage was a place for women and children to have economic protection. It was a place where religious values could be taught and extended to the next generation, and a place where family fortunes could remain intact. More recently, marriage became a place for a relatively new invention: romantic love. But since dating and hooking up have morphed into America’s favorite pastime, full of hopeful highs and disappointing lows, even romantic love is losing its luster.

So why choose marriage today? Because it is an intellectual decision that leads to survival of the species. Anthropologists have always said that it was human’s sophisticated social structures, including the adoption of long-term monogamy, that help our species procreate and thrive.

Humans are the animals that require a huge amount of nurturing for our psychological and physical survival, more than virtually any other animal on earth. While most newborns are up on four legs and running with the herd just hours after birth, we Homo sapiens have a vulnerable in-arms (or stroller) phase that lasts almost four years. And it’s really, really hard to nurse and carry a baby while extracting resources from the environment. Just ask any single mother. Doable, yes, but very difficult. Remember the mission: to grow up healthy and create offspring that are also healthy and ready for careers and parenthood.

Family therapists know that dysfunctional family systems eventually fall out of evolution’s chain. Each generation has fewer and fewer offspring that survive through the next procreation, until the family line finally dies off. Apparently, neglectful parenting can create drunk drivers, criminals caught in crossfire, hermits, drug addicts, and narcissists too selfish for parenting — all people with lower chances of reproducing. But let me make one thing clear before I get inundated with e-mails about this: I am IN NO WAY SAYING that all single mothers create dysfunctional families. What I am saying is that every time one factor is removed from a system that has been selected through evolution, the chances for dysfunction increase. Plenty of single mothers are raising healthy kids with the help of extended family, surrogate male role models, and friendship villages that act as a de facto family. And this is part of our changing family structure.

Evolution has shown that our best chances for survival and for the survival of our offspring’s offspring is a team approach to raising humans. And the best team captains are people who have a biological interest in the child. And to create that, we need to sometimes put the notion of romantic love aside and make an intellectual decision to do what’s best for our genes, ahem, I mean kids.

Watch my youtube video: What is Slow Love?

FOR COUPLES: Maybe it’s Your Attachment Style

Couple Back to back with problemsYou may have heard about  “attachment disorders” as they pertain to babies and parents, but did you know there’s  an adult version that relates to romantic attachments? Many adults walking among us, stumble through the world of dating, mating, and relating, while reliving their own preverbal, infantile emotional injuries. Some have a style of attachment that brings as many feelings of anxiety as comfort, and they are called “anxious” attachers. To understand this, let’s take a look at what attachment theory is.

History of Attachment Theory


In this book, Becoming Attached, author Dr. Robert Karen sums up the work of the pioneers of attachment theory well. From the birth of attachment theory, with such thinkers as John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, and Mary Main, came the notion that a trusted person — an attachment figure — offers an infant a secure base. A child whose needs are met with appropriate attention, affection, and empathic words will grow to trust the world and to trust relationships, and will translate that feeling of trust to a romantic partner in adult life. John Bowlby, an English psychotherapist from the first part of the last century, is often called the father of attachment theory. He believed that the ties to the parent gradually weaken as the child gets older, and that the secure base function is slowly shifted to other figures, eventually resting on one’s mate.

This tendency of the child to attach in the ways he or she was attached to his/her parents happens because the functions of attachment become an internal property of the child. In other words, we are often unaware of our own attachment style. Attachment theory involves a way of relating to others based on communications and behaviors of both parents in the first years of life. These “messages” about how to love are then combined with a child’s own interactions with each parent, and become an influential cognitive structure — a hard-wired piece of our personality.

Three Principal Patterns of Attachment


Attachment researchers have categorized people based on three principal patterns of attachment. The first is a pattern of secure attachment, in which the person is confident that a parent (usually Mom, and eventually a lover) will be available, responsive, and helpful.

The second is that of anxious resistant attachment, in which the individual is uncertain if a parent will be available and because of that uncertainty, is prone to separation anxiety and is anxious about exploring the world.

The third pattern is an anxious avoidant attachment, in which the individual has no confidence that when he or she seeks care, they will be responded to, and on the contrary, expects rejection.

These three kinds of patterns play out in adult romantic life as well. It is estimated that only about 20 percent of the American population has secure attachment behaviors — the ability to give and receive care with comfort, and a degree of self-esteem that is not dependent on their lover’s reinforcement. What’s left in most of us? We either have a tendency to avoid feelings and closeness, or a confusing pattern of craving and mistrusting love — in various degrees, of course.

People with anxious attachment disorder are vigilant clock-watchers. Since they are dependent on contact and affirmation from their partner, they have an uncanny ability to sense if contact is waning. They tend to be chronic voice mail and e-mail checkers, and have a need for constant texting. They can also be easily prone to feelings of jealousy. They love and respect their partner, but are also wary that that love may disappear. And, while people with anxious attachment disorder crave closeness, they can also be surprisingly terrified when they actually get what they crave. We’ve all met or dated someone who sent us contradictory messages and led us to believe they were interested, only to disappear or behave badly and send us running. People with anxious attachment disorder don’t trust that love is real or reliable, and so they often behave badly when things feel too good.

The good news is that attachment disorders can be healed. An empathetic, ethical therapist can foster a healthy therapist/patient relationship that rebuilds adult attachment style. Patients learn how to depend on relationships, to trust love, and to tolerate criticism and consistent contact. If you feel you are suffering from an attachment disorder, try to find a therapists who specializes in attachment theory.

Attachment theory holds so many keys to adult romantic pair bonding. The unique mating dance of couples is choreographed by the internal world of both partners, creating, in the end, a performance that runs the gamut from an embracing waltz to one in which the dancers continually step on each others’ feet. It is a reflection of the secret world of an infant and parent, played out again with a grown-up body and a new kind of mother — a lover.

For more watch: If a Guy Likes Me, Why Wont He Call Back

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FOR SINGLES: What’s your number? New Data on Average Number of Sex Partners.

StdsWhen it comes to sexuality, the most common questions I get from my readers have to do with sexual experience and numbers of partners. Everyone wants to know if they are normal or not. As it turns out, the latest research does not support the media’s idea of a wild hook-up culture.

Recently the centers for disease control asked more than 6000 American men and women, aged 25-44, how many sexual partners they have had. It’s important to keep in mind that because of the sexual double standard, the one that awards points to men for sexual experience and gives women demerit points for the same experience, people tend to over or under report on sexual surveys, even anonymous ones. So, as you consider these numbers, remember to adjust a bit for the male bravado and female modesty. According to the CDC, the average number of lifetime partners for men was a whopping six and for women a mere four. Why don’t we just assume from that that the average American has about five partners before their mid-life crisis? And if you jump to the conclusion that most sexual behavior comes before the age of twenty-five, remember that college sex has been dropping since the 1980’s.

But the other interesting part of the data shows that 27% of men have had 15 or more partners. Since those guys, bring that average way up, you can assume that the other 73% of men have actually had fewer than the six they reported.

In the women’s category, the big winner (or loser, depending how you judge these numbers) are the ten per cent of women who also brag or admit to having had more than fifteen sexual partners. They also impact that four-partner average, so one might extrapolate here that ninety per cent of women between 15 and 44 have had about three partners.

Some of the most interesting data on male sexuality appears in Dr. Andrew P. Smiler’s book, Challenging Casanova. In one enlightening passage. Smiler quotes a fascinating study where young men are asked if they would prefer a hookup (a guarantee promise of no-strings-attached sex) over a romantic date. Not surprisingly to psychologists who study male sexuality, a whopping 75% of men sais they would prefer a romantic evening over a hook-up. And plenty know that getting lucky on a first date has some serious draw backs.

 

 

FOR COUPLES: The Single Best Relationship Tip Ever

young-couple-holding-handsWhen couples are asked to name their biggest relationship problem, hands down, the most reported issue is communication. But there’s one simple trick that most couples’ counselors teach. It has helped save many a marriage and is called emotional mirroring.

The exercise goes like this. Couples sit face to face and hold hands. One partner talks about a relationship issue and the other listens intently and attempts to understand how the other must be feeling. This isn’t a game of who’s right and who’s wrong. Even if the facts don’t seem accurate, the partner who is listening must believe that the feelings associated with the partner’s memory of events are valid and real. After the partner finishes speaking, the listener repeats back in her or her own words what they think the partner is saying. Then they switch sides. The object of the exercise is to teach empathy for a partner’s experience, it is not to argue the facts.

When you try this for the first time, you might be really surprised to find that your partner didn’t hear you well, or translated your words into a totally different meaning! This is a great way to practice love and acceptance. To get you started, here are a few ground rules:

1. Arrange the time for emotional mirroring when there will be no distractions like children, phone or television.

2. Before you begin, hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and tell your partner you love them.

3. Toss a coin to determine who goes first and switch off each time you do the exercise.

4. The partner who shares first must try to not blame the other but instead focus on feelings and reactions to the other’s behavior. No name calling. No angry attacks. Keep voices calm.

Do this at least once a week and watch your relationship blossom into a loving, secure attachment.